Happiness Is Homemade.

Hey y’all. I wrote a whole entry today, and then I realized that it was full of information that I wouldn’t want a total stranger to read… so I didn’t publish it. I miss LiveJournal and FB’s privacy settings something fierce right now, but I’m also very glad that I’m starting to have more of a filter about what I’m willing to share with total strangers all over the world. It’s an important boundry to find.

I did, however, make something for myself that may be helpful for others, so I’m linking to it here.

Happiness Is Homemade — Daily Worksheet

This worksheet goes through the 4 exercises that I do every day to help me combat my brain’s natural tendency to gravitate to the negative.

3 Great Things About Yesterday requires you to remember good things about the immediate past. I’m a big fan of trying to focus on 3 Great Things that I had no control over whatsoever — like great weather, or getting a phone call from a friend. This exercise is about appreciation.

When I was at the absolute darkest part of depression, my list looked like this:

  1. Still Alive
  2. Not In the Hospital
  3. Adam Hasn’t Left Me

3 Things I Deserve A Sticker For requires you to think about what your day has been like and give yourself credit for doing things that may have been challenging. For a while there, “Changing poopy diapers” was on my list every day. For the last week, “Fighting the urge to check social media” has been on there.  I messed up a little today. :-/ But that’s how growth works — we try our best, we mess up, and then we try again as our best gets better. In any event, this exercise is about giving yourself credit where it’s due.

3 Things I’m Looking Forward To requires you to use your imagination to envision anything positive at all occurring in your future. This can be especially challenging if you’re deeply depressed or you’ve totally embraced nihilism and are just wondering at what moment nuclear annihilation is going to unmake our entire species.

I’ve had to remove the following 3 from my list because it was the same list every day for a long time, though they’re still there:

  1. Having good conversations with Henry.
  2. Henry using the potty consistently, like a big boy.
  3. A future with autonomous vehicles that I can access.

Gratitude Rampage is an open-ended exercise that you can do for 5 or 10 minutes — or more if you prefer. You simply sit there and list (for whatever amount of time you’ve chosen) everything you can think of that you’re grateful for/happy about in that moment.  The practice requires you to think about how you’re feeling in the moment and to not ignore the positive things in your life that are currently occurring.

If you can, print this out and fill it out by hand. Your brain gets more from writing than it does from typing.

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Where I Should Be Writing

Well, the last few weeks have been… interesting.

My mom came in town last Wednesday (2/1) and stayed with us all the way until yesterday. We were together for an entire week and a half…and it took over a week before I completely lost my shit on her.

On the one hand, I see that as immense growth. After starting EMDR therapy for PTSD and realizing years of repressed anger, I used to only be able to handle being around her and being kind/civil for about 3 days at a time before becoming an overly-emotional reactionary mess…so going more than a week is deserving of a high-five at the very least.

On the other hand, I’m still sick at my stomach for losing it on her in the first place, on the day before she left. I said shit that was mean and that I don’t actually think. Don’t get me wrong, I apologized, and we’re good now — but I really wish that I had more emotional control when I’m already triggered and am trying, desperately, to regain rationality.

Truth of the matter is, keeping my anxiety in check has been nearly impossible since Trump took office. The amount of irrational fear that I was experiencing when he announced the travel ban was enough on its own — but all of the internet think pieces forecasting the demise of all of humanity was just too much for me.

I lost my damn mind one morning because Adam didn’t understand how totally important it was to leave the country immediately (even though he and Henry didn’t have passports yet) and ended up going for a long walk in my nearly threadbare pajamas in 12 degree weather until I could cool my jets and act like a semi-reasonable human being.

In the twenty minutes-or-so that I was gone, Adam called my mom and my therapist.  I’m glad he realized that he didn’t need to call the cops this time… because we all know, he’ll do it if he needs to.

Social Media Changes

The first major change that occurred when I got home is that we put a site blocker on my laptop. If I try to go to Facebook, I get redirected to Cute Overload. If I try to hit Twitter, I’m redirected to ICanHazCheeseburger. If I try to go to Reuters or the Associated Press, it sends me straight to FailBlog.  Because, let’s be real… the news is full of fail right now.

I haven’t read my Facebook or Twitter news feeds in nearly 2 weeks, though I have kept Messenger around for PMing with friends. I both miss feeling “in the know” about what’s going on in my friends lives and in the world around us — and don’t at all miss feeling the near-constant panic that comes along with Facebook’s ability to show you the same bad news 10 different ways with 10 different click-bait-worthy headlines all foreshadowing imminent doom… And I sure as shit don’t need to scroll past comments showing that there really are morons out there who both want to fight for fetal “rights” and also stop those same babies from ever being able to be covered by insurance… or women who simultaneously scream that racism is over and that they don’t need feminism because they have Jesus, but don’t understand why white, affluent rapists don’t get sent to prison.

Truly, I always knew those folks were out there. Shit, I grew up in around a ton of them… (you don’t have members of your own high school drumline drawing swastikas on your practice pad and books and get to ignore the rise of NeoNazim in the South) but I don’t have to read their hate-filled, scarcity-based fearmongering.  I don’t even have to see that it exists and scroll past it. I can stop tuning in.  I wouldn’t watch FoxNews or CNN all day, so why would I let the 24 hr news cycle rule my social feed?

Instead, I downloaded Instagram and SnapChat.  There’s almost zero in the way of political crap, and that suits me fine. I’m actually seeing more personal pictures and am reading about what’s going on in the lives of my friends, which is what I actually care about.

I also do not understand SnapChat yet… because sometimes I want to see what someone said again, and I can’t get it to replay.  It’s frustrating. I swear I’m not a luddite, btw… just a little lazy, considering everything else going on in life.

But my real new addiction?  A game called Habitica. I’m still learning it, but I think it’s is one of the best possible changes in my life.  It has multiple to-do lists that you can populate with what you need to, and it gives you experience points and loot for living in integrity with your intentions.

It also doesn’t hurt that I have both a cotton-candy pink wolf and a royal purple tiger cub as pets that I got for remembering to brush my teeth, take my meds every morning and night, and eat 3 meals a day, every day this week. (It’s the little things, for real.)  It tickles me that I’m going to be getting fake gold coins for remembering to make social contact with people I like at least 3 times a week.

Anyway, much as I’d like to keep writing, Henry is up from his nap, and we have limited daylight left to take a walk on a beautifully sunny 48 degree Sunday afternoon. So, for now, I’m gonna wrap it up.

I’m not dumping my thoughts in 140 characters or easy/fast/thoughtless status updates anymore… so, I think we all know where my significant updates will be found. (Right here.)  That also means that if you want to comment on any blog entry where I can see it, you’re gonna need to comment right here and not on Twitter or on FB. I won’t see either of those. 

 

P.S. – I finally bit the bullet and contacted Pace Paratransit. Sometime in the next month or so, Henry and I should have significantly more freedom to get around. Cabs are fucking spendy.

Well, duh.

You know, there are days when I realize that for however smart I was in grade school, that may well be how completely clueless I am as an adult about common sense things.

smart-vs-dumb

Gorgeous, either way, though, right?

See, I’ve been living in Orland Hills, IL for a little over a year now.  The town is so small that in order to use public transportation, you actually have to call a phone number more than 24 hours in advance and set up your ride.  It’s like paratransit, but for everybody.

When we moved here, I walked over to the town hall to get all of our paperwork in order, and I was told by some of the ladies who work there that I couldn’t bring my baby on the bus because they don’t allow car seats.  Thus began my year of walking everywhere and having absolutely crushing stir-craziness in the winter, wondering how I would make it until my son turned 8.

Well, today, I had enough of it.  It’s gorgeous outside (but -5 degrees wind chill), and despite having time travel seizures yesterday, I decided I was tired of feeling like a middle schooler who was impatiently waiting for one of her friends to get a drivers license. I decided to ask the hivemind — my friends on FB and the folks in one of the local parenting groups on there.

And do you know what they suggested? A taxi service.

benny

I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me earlier, and I feel totally dumb for not thinking of it. It’s so simple and straightforward that it makes my head hurt.

For some reason, I thought that since we’re living in the suburbs, we wouldn’t have access to taxis out here… but we do! I even thought, “Hey! Uber might work!” but riding in an Uber with a baby and his car seat only works if the Uber driver is cool with it — and most of them aren’t. (Who can blame them? If my baby pukes, Uber’s not gonna clean it up for them, and if we are in an accident, the liability for them is too great.)

So, one of the ladies in the parenting group suggested a specific driver who works with her elderly mom, and I’m going to be giving him a call tomorrow.

I’m tired of feeling like less than an adult, simply because I can’t get where I want to go when I want to go. Henry deserves to go to the library, regularly. He deserves to go on playdates. He deserves a life outside of this house, and a mommy who has more self-esteem than I do right now.

Cabbing it might seem kinda costly, but I’m going to do everything I can to remind myself, when I’m feeling too cheap to give us freedom, that if I had a car, I’d be paying more for gas, maintenance, licensing, and insurance. Not to mention how much we’ll save on psychological therapy in the coming years for me and Henry. (No agoraphobia allowed!)

So, I’m now looking very forward to going to pilates or yoga classes during the day at our gym like I’ve wanted to for so long. I’m going to make friends here and be a functional member of this community. I’m going to stop using my inability to drive as a reason to feel sorry for myself. I’m taking back at least some of the freedom I’ve unconsciously given to seizure disorder.


On a completely different note, I was approached by an employee of Earnest a few weeks ago who asked me to write an entry on holiday budgeting. Over the course of our emails it appeared that they wanted me to suggest to my readers that they refinance their student loans. They didn’t offer me any compensation to promote them, so my link above exists out of nothing more than goodwill towards someone who may have read one of my entries, but who definitely has a tough job if they’re trying to get sporadic writers like me to pimp their product.

Anyway, I have a ton of tips that I would be happy to share about how I personally save money, but I also have a massive amount of respect for my small and dedicated group of readers. I don’t believe that y’all care one iota about reading about that sort of thing here.  If I’m wrong, let me know, and I’ll happily write it up for you.

Hope everyone’s feeling well, and that 2017 isn’t half the shitshow that the Great Dumpster Fire of 2016 was.

2016dumpsterfire

My Sphere of Influence

So much has happened since the last time that I wrote.

Henry is now 19 months old. Donald Trump has been elected president, but everyone’s looking to the electors to see if they’re actually gonna vote for him next week, especially now that he’s put together a cabinet comprised of members of Who’s Who Among American Assholes (That is to say that they’re almost all family members, horrific Neo-Nazis, and science deniers.) and is already starting shit with China and Israel by chatting it up with the leaders of Taiwan & Palestine. *shrugs* Who the fuck knows what’s gonna happen? Not me.

Here’s what I do know: I have a limited sphere of influence in this world, and it’s kind of a gift.

It’d be way too easy to be sucked into the hysteria of this prolonged election cycle full-time, thinking I could make any difference in its outcome.  I’ve had days like that, admittedly. But I felt awful after them. I feared for my life, for Henry’s life. I felt insignificant and vulnerable. (Both of which things are true and not bad, relatively speaking.) I questioned the goodness of humanity — even existence as a whole. I questioned my resolve to have good mental health. I questioned the sanity in staying in this country. And then I questioned the sanity in leaving.

When I think about recent days that end with me not feeling like I need to get blackout wasted, I’ve usually spent the majority of it not focused on making the world a better place, but rather making my home a better place. Not on being a good citizen or advocate, but on being a good wife and mother.

The more time I spend one-on-one with Henry, with my cell phone in another room, the better I feel about life. So, I’m trying to remember to quit looking at my phone… which is surprisingly difficult, but worth it – because Henry’s at a wonderful, but difficult age.

20161205_081701At 19 months, he’s 3 ft tall already. He can grab anything he wants off of the counter. He can play the piano just standing up. He can climb up and down stairs on his own, and he’s getting closer and closer to talking in sentences.  (Of course if you count, “OH NO!” as a sentence, then he’s been golden for over a month.)

Right now, he has a lot of words that are regulars: Mama, Dada, dog, duck, baby, ba-ba  (for bottle), car, no, book, milk, wa-wa (for water), stairs, shoes, mouse, and yeah. And I know there’s more.  But 15 right off the top of my head isn’t bad!

Anyway, I’d write more about how awesome this kid is, and how much I love him, and how being a mother is completely changing the way I think about life and myself and law and even music.. but he just woke up from his nap.

Maybe someday, I’ll get the chance to write again. But you can’t “carve out” time when you’re already maxed out. Right now, I’ll just be happy getting through the holidays.

Carving It Out.

Time

pumpkin-clock1I don’t think I realized, when I decided to become a mother, how difficult it is for a stay-at-home-mom to make time for herself, let alone to make time for writing, practicing music, or even keeping in touch with friends and family who don’t use social media… but it has become increasingly obvious that sublimating my sense of self is detrimental to more than just my happiness.

So, here I am, eating my lunch while attempting writing my first blog entry in several months.  Why?  Is it because I have such important stuff to say? Is it because I need attention?  No. It’s because writing helps me be the person I want to be. It helps me think.

And, fortunately for me, Henry just went down for a nap…at 2:15 p.m. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. He’s down to 1 nap a day, and it usually happens around 12:30 or 1. When kiddo refuses to give in to sleep until his body just conks out, it usually means that I’ve got more than an hour to myself — plenty of time to eat lunch.  Maybe even enough time to get dinner up in the crock pot.  And, if I’m feeling really feisty, enough time to do the dishes too. There’s no chance of that happening today. I wish I were napping too. Instead, I’m writing. It’s what I need to do.

Pumpkins

Can you believe it’s only 2 weeks until Halloween?  I can’t. I mean, I actually bought some decorations for our house yesterday, with the goal of getting them up before the holiday is over.  (Who am I becoming? I never decorate!) I keep asking Adam if I can buy a pumpkin at the grocery store, and so far, it hasn’t been time.  Hopefully, I’ll convince him to get some this weekend.  I’m looking very forward to carving one. I’m not quite sure why, but I’d bet it has everything to do with getting the chance to do something creative. It also probably has something to do with how much I love roasted pumpkin seeds…

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to be for Halloween — or what Henry’s gonna be. Originally, I wanted to be Sarah & Duck, since that’s his favorite cartoon right now.

 

sarahandduck

Sarah & Duck or, as Henry likes to call it, “Duck Duck”

duckduck

Whoever made this costume is radicool.

 

Unfortunately, I cannot find a mallard costume for the little guy, and I am absolute shite at sewing. I can’t even remember how to properly thread a bobbin. (Thank goodness Craftsy classes are forever.)  If it weren’t so close to the date, I’d try to replicate this awesomeness. –>

So, I’m currently at a loss. Maybe I should think of a 3 person costume for the whole family. Who knows. We’re not planning on taking him door-to-door, but we are planning on giving out treats, and it would be a shame to half-ass the holiday like last year. I’m pretty sure he wore his $25 costume for 15 minutes max. Worth it for the pictures, sure… but not ideal.

I’d really like to take him to a petting zoo or pumpkin patch or some other age-appropriate autumnal “thing.” Adam seems on board to do that this weekend. I hope the good weather holds out.  I don’t know how I’d handle it if we end up spending the whole weekend in this house. I’ve got mad cabin fever.

I’m getting really, REALLY, really tired of not being able to drive.  Like, it’s one thing when it only really affects you, but when the kiddo is obviously stir crazy, it makes me so sad.  I mean, it shouldn’t be a revolutionary thing to get to go to the library, but when it finally happens, it will be.  I’ve only wanted to go for over a year now. It shouldn’t be so difficult.

In all seriousness, I have to figure out how to get around in the outside world with a kid when the only public transportation available to us doesn’t accommodate car seats, and Uber Family doesn’t exist in our area. Aside from asking my mother-in-law to take us places, which obviously can’t be an everyday thing, I’m at a loss.

Dear Tesla, Toyota, Google, Volvo, and every other company that is working on automated vehicles and getting the laws changed so they can be on the road: thank you for your efforts. Please do more faster.

Turkey

turkeyHalloween, of course, means that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Adam and I, shockingly enough, still have a big-ass turkey sitting in our freezer from the Christmas sales last year.  According to Butterball, it’s still good if frozen and unopened for 2-3 years, but I’d be lying if I weren’t slightly concerned about how it’s gonna turn out.

We’ve been trying to organize a day of Turkey & Twilight Imperium, but it’s really hard to get a group of friends together for a 6+ hr chunk of time these days. Everyone’s got dogs and babies and jobs and other things they need to take care of.  Shit, if we could even get everyone together even to watch a tutorial on how to play, that would be something.

I would say that we’ll bring it with us to Colorado Springs to play with my family, since we’re doing Thanksgiving with them this year, but the game is larger than a carry-on bag, (No, I’m not joking.) and the idea of my family sitting through learning all the rules when we’re high on Pancho’s cheese dip and sleep deprivation (since my newborn nephew and Henry will be in the same home for the first time ever), sort of tickles me.

Anyway. That reminds me that I need to set myself a reminder to order cheese dip.  And possibly turducken. God, I love the internet. Gonna carve out some time to do that right now.  Hope you’re all doing well. ❤

14495482_10210428153402837_2829219525241718269_n

Henry congratulates you on making it to the end of Mommy’s post. 🙂

Out Of Control, And That’s OK

There’s been a lot going on recently that has been anxiety-producing…an unusual amount of mass murder, a trainwreck of a political circus, and, of course, personal stuff.  There are so many things that I would change if I could. The inherent unfairness of life weighs on my spirit.  I desperately want to help make the world a better place — or at least a kinder one… but I am one Rachael. I can only do so much.

I cannot:

  • Stop complete strangers from shooting, stabbing, or running over people.
  • End systemic racism.
  • Fix end-stage capitalism or neo-feudalism.
  • Make the geopolitical landscape either make sense or work the way that I want it to.
  • Force anybody’s political ideals or morals to match my own.
  • Make any decisions about American domestic or foreign policy.
  • Disarm all the nuclear bombs in the world.
  • Make teething less painful for my son.
  • Force the higher-ups at anyone’s place of employment to make wise decisions for the health and morale of their workers.
  • Make it any easier or more fun for anyone to look for a job.
  • Know whether or not the estriol treatment is having a positive effect on my MS.
  • Know whether or not it would be more beneficial for me to get back on Copaxone or if I should try to convince my neurologist to let me try Lemtrada or Ocrevus… or if I should just keep doing Vitamin D and estriol.
  • Know when the optimal time actually is to have a second child. (I have been thinking about this particular question way too much recently.)
  • Make Humana stop messing up my medical billing from over a year ago.
  • Make the muscles in my arms and legs stop randomly, painfully spasming (though cannabis does a good job of quieting it down for a few hours at a time)
  • Cure MS or seizure disorder… or any other medical condition, for that matter.
  • Blow thousands of dollars and hire a full staff.  All I want is a maid, a gardener, a contractor to renovate our home, a nanny, a full-time driver, and an on-call masseuse, so that I can get all the things done that I feel need to be done. Totally reasonable, right?

Panic and despair don’t help anything, and no one else can “fix” life either.

relax

I recognize that I’m not helpless to be at the effect of these worries and situations.

I can:

  • Meditate and let the fear pass.
  • Exercise.
  • Take all my prescribed medicines as scheduled.
  • Talk with my therapist when I need to.
  • Hold my baby tight, love him with all my heart, and teach him to be compassionate to himself and others.
  • Do as much housework as possible to help relieve some stress for my husband while also showing myself in a clear way that I make a visible difference in the world around me.
  • Make healthy food choices for my family.
  • Comfort friends who are sad.
  • Find a way to compliment or show appreciation to every person I talk to.
  • Make music and art.
  • Share my experiences so that others who face similar challenges don’t feel so alone.
  • Be an ally, an advocate, and involve myself in the community
  • Do my best to both give myself credit for what I already do and still be ambitious.
  • Choose optimism.
  • Focus on gratitude.
  • Consciously look for the good in life.
  • Remember that I don’t have to read my FB newsfeed like it’s my part-time job. I don’t need to internalize anyone else’s stress.

My mantra for the last few weeks has been this, and it’s serving me very well:

doit

 

 

Good Enough.

Well, 6:30 a.m. rolled around this morning, and Henry decided that since Daddy was very obviously awake, he needed to be doing things too.  I would still be cranky about this if not for the fact that he is, mercifully, napping right now, which puts us on schedule for him to attend a Gymboree class at 12:30, assuming it doesn’t rain.

You know, life is funny. When you’re little, you rage against naps and against sleep. Fear of missing out is so strong that you can’t even comprehend why your parents want you to rest.  As a grown up,  I know that what I’m actually missing out on most of the time is… a restful nap.

The irony that I could be taking one right now instead of writing is not lost on me.

Ghosts of the Past

Social media never ceases to amaze me. Several days ago, I got a friend request from someone who used to be my best friend in the whole world.  When I say “used to be,” I mean that it’s been 25 years since I last saw her. We went to elementary school together, and after my family moved to Collierville, for all intents and purposes, I never saw anyone from elementary school again, and I was more than okay with that.

See, I went to a prestigious (read “snobby”) private school.  From 2nd-6th grade, my daily thought processes were consumed not primarily with learning, but rather, with an unrelenting psychological struggle for acceptance. On the one hand, I would desperately try to convince a bunch of rich little girls that I deserved acceptance, despite being of a different religion and socioeconomic background than almost all of them — and on the other, I would desperately try to convince myself that their acceptance was completely meaningless and empty.

In my ideal imaginary world, where I never ended up with MS or seizure disorder, I’d have made my mark by now as a rich and powerful entertainment attorney who also just happened to be happily married, beautiful as an adult, and energetic enough that I could still perform music on the weekends — you know, just for fun.  I could totally talk to the girls I grew up with and be like, “See. I am your people. Aren’t you glad you grew up with me now?”

…but I’m not.

I’m a disabled stay-at-home-mom who writes sporadically and doesn’t wear pink on Wednesdays. Mercifully, I’ve not only come to terms with that, but I’m actually pretty proud of it. It took years to get healthy enough to have Henry, and it takes concerted effort to carve out time to write.

Surprisingly enough, after I accepted her friend request, I found myself worrying about whether or not my life was “good enough.”  I openly questioned whether this person genuinely wanted to rekindle a long-lost friendship or if she was going to be headed to a reunion and she wanted some good gossip for everyone.

A day later, another elementary school classmate requested friendship, and I had to really consider whether or not I was going to accept.  It’s not like this request was from a former bully. This woman was the nicest (and prettiest) girl in class, and I didn’t even have an inkling of bad intention on her part — which really gave me pause.

In that moment, it hit me square in the face just how toxic and deep my shame is over the direction my life took after I was diagnosed with seizure disorder… and I had to figure out both why I was shaming myself and what I could do about it. My life is not a trainwreck people can’t help but stop to look at. It’s performance art.

Turns out that despite all of my years of growth as a person, my inner child is still classist, ableist, and misogynistic. She attended enough ballet classes, watched enough TV, and read enough magazines to know that she’s only pretty if she’s thin, important if she’s rich or in a position to help someone else social climb, and worthwhile as a person if she’s “contributing to society” through paid work, glamour, or widely-accepted art or music.

It’s a damn good thing that I’ve grown past those old ways of thinking as an adult.

So Much More Than Good Enough.

I accepted both friend requests, and I’m glad I did. It’s cool to know that my old bestie and the girl I was most impressed with while growing up actually care to know me as an adult. I’m curious to see who they’ve become too!  We’re all mommies now. That alone changes you a lot.

It’s even cooler to know that the good side of my early-life struggle finally won out. I give zero fucks about what other people think of me at this point. I would actually give negative fucks if that were possible. (Like, my fuck deficiency is so pronounced that I could really use some of yours. I might have to declare fuck bankruptcy.)  I’m also entirely certain that my father, upon reading this, will pump his fist in the air, and think, “That’s my girl.”

What matters is what I think of myself… and my record for awesomeness is pretty good. I’m well educated in interesting topics. I’m relentless in the pursuit of bettering myself as a person. I engage in community service, and I make an effort to have fun too. I’m raising a kid who’s not a little asshole, and my husband still grabs my butt after 10 years.

Altogether, I know that I am more than “good enough” for myself, even if I have to remind my insecure inner child of that. I try hard to be the kind of person I’d want to hang out with. And sometimes, that person needs to be someone who reminds you of how special you are.

I’m happy that these very old friends unintentionally gave me the opportunity to take a good hard look at the life I’m leading. I’m even happier with what I saw… because, really, how could I be anything but happy when I get to see this face all day?

hugabug1